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Air vs Hydro Excavation

The Market

Vac•Con® is a leading manufacturer in sewer cleaning, hydro-excavation, and vacuum trucks that are distributed through a worldwide network of dealers. We specialize in combination and excavation machines that are offered in truck or trailer-mounted platforms. Our X-Cavator™ enables a contractor to locate and safely excavate around delicate utilities without damaging them. The X-Cavator can be ordered with specific options to handle specialized excavation requirements.Air vs Hydro Excavation

Available vacuum systems range from 1200 cfm to 8000 cfm and can create 16” to 28” of HG. Water systems are smooth continuous flow and are infinitely variable up to 4000 PSI and 20 gpm. Variability allows the operator to increase or decrease flow and pressure depending on how fragile is the utility being exposed.


Air vs. Hydro-Excavation:

We asked one of our technical experts, Mike Selby, to fill us in on the differences, perks, and cons of both air and hydro excavation. Check out his responses below.

  • Differences between air and hydro-excavation

    • The difference of using water or air really depends on soil type. High pressure water is more aggressive and can cut through virtually any soil type with the use of nozzles designed for excavation.  Air is generally used to locate sensitive utilities that won’t withstand the water pressure and flow.  There are some installations that do not allow any water for the use of digging due to fragile utilities in the area
  • Why you would choose one over the other based on soil and environmental conditions

    • Each method of excavating has its pros and cons. Depending on soil types and your customer’s requirements they may lead you in a specific direction.  Generally, water is for more compacted, rocky and dense soil types where air is great for loose less compacted material.
  • Job time difference? Is one faster than the other?

    • Soil type, weather and depth will really determine the length of any operation. Each method has its benefits
  • Which is more technologically advanced?

    • I don’t know that you can put a technological spin on either method. Digging with water or air is in itself technologically advanced.  Years past the only way to dig was with a metal shovel.  Today you have different methods that are both less intrusive environmentally, it just depends which method works best for the application you’re working in.
  • Differences in safety requirements for air vs water excavation, and risk

    • The risks are virtually the same in both applications. You have conductivity risks which relates more to the vacuum machine rather than the method.  Some conductivity risks include: overhead clearances with the vacuum boom, vacuum tube to utility contact, static electricity through vacuum piping and more.  You have shoring risks which related to digging depth and personnel entering the excavation site.  If not properly shored the hole could cave in on the person entering it.  Be cautious of overhead obstructions.  Operators tend to focus on what they are doing below them.  The vacuum boom that conveys material into the spoils tank is the most used component of any air or hydro excavator.  Most of the time the nature of the application for these trucks is to work in densely populated areas with a lot of overhead utilities.


ADP Group in North Yorkshire, United Kingdom made use of their X-Cavator™ machine on a job to vacuum material that was located 215 ft. horizontal and 33 ft. vertical.

“Our flagship suction excavator has this week been showcasing yet more of the benefits of vacuum/suction excavation; our Vac•Con® X-Cavator has been safely excavating pre-drill pits on a site in North Yorkshire, working 65 meters+ from the machine itself!

This versatile system is excavating pits and transporting material back to a site compound that is elevated approximately 10 meters and over 65 meters from the site, reducing manual handling and costs; all whilst ensuring that, if encountered, services are not damaged.”


Vac•Con®Air vs Hydro Excavation

We offer only the highest quality and most durable equipment in the way of truck and trailer-mounted combination, hydro-excavation, industrial vacuum loader, and jetter machines. Our goal is to offer the best machines for your projects, always providing MORE POWER TO YOU. For questions, please contact us at our local number 888-920-2945, or for international inquiries at +1-904-493-4969.





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